UNLV Lady Rebels dominate Pepperdine, 83-63

November 18, 2015

Las Vegas, Nevada --  The UNLV Lady Rebels continued their winning ways Tuesday night, blowing out Pepperdine at home behind a strong defensive effort that limited the Waves to 39.3 percent shooting, and produced 26 UNLV points off of 21 Pepperdine turnovers.

The evening began with changes to the Rebels' starting lineup, as Dylan Gonzalez started in her twin sister Dakota’s guard spot. Also inserted into the starting five for the first time this year was sophomore wing Simone Sheppard.

This new-look lineup was short-lived however, as head coach Kathy Olivier would send in her customary backcourt of Brooke Johnson and Dakota Gonzalez -- along with freshman standout Jordyn Bell -- four minutes into the opening quarter.

UNLV's Amie Callaway knocked down a straight away three off a nice feed from Dylan Gonzalez to put the Rebels up, 11-9. Moments later, it was twin sister Dakota who hit a corner trey to push the lead to 5. She would sink another just seconds later, this time from the opposite side of the court, giving UNLV a quick eight-point advantage, 17-9.

A runner by Johnson would force Waves’ head coach Ryan Weisenberg to call timeout, as his squad trailed by ten in the early going, 19-9.

UNLV also put in some yeoman's work on the boards, getting no less than three second-chance opportunities before Johnson finally corralled a miss for an "and one" layup and free throw opportunity.  A tough contested layup from Nikki Wheatley would follow, putting the Rebels up 23-13 after one quarter.

“We just have such a culture and mentality of hard work and competing that I really don’t think that (the early season success) is going to go to our heads at all,” said Olivier of her team's gritty play.

Johnson seemed to be playing the role normally assumed by the mercurial Wheatley, as she leaped in again for a nice offensive board and an impressive turnaround jump hook to push the lead once again to 10, at 27-17.

Aley Rohde and Callaway showed their innate knack for working well together, as the senior pivot found her counterpart for a corner three that Callaway calmly knocked down to push the lead to 15.

Rohde then surprised many by hitting a straight-on three of her own off a nice drive-and-dish from Dakota Gonzalez.

After the Waves' Kayla Blair made a three to pull Pepperdine to within 12, UNLV's Johnson responded with a tough runner as the first half buzzer sounded. The bucket gave the Rebels a 14-point edge at the end of the first half, 42-28.

The Rebels hit five three-pointers and got 13 points from Aly Rhode in the first half.

Wheatley got things started in the second half for UNLV, showing her impressive explosiveness by going high for a rebound and getting fouled hard on the put-back attempt. The sometimes shaky shooter showed her improved stroke by knocking down both subsequent free throws.

Wheatley then made another key play, outracing the opposition to track down a loose ball and take it all the way to the hoop, putting UNLV up by sixteen.

After another turnover, Johnson would pass ahead to Dylan Gonzalez for an uncontested layup which put the Rebels up 48-30, prompting Pepperdine to call a timeout.

Senior wing Keitra Wallace did her best to keep the Waves in it, converting on a pair of nice drives. However, Dakota Gonzalez would quell that rally, as she converted on a tough drive and spinning layup coming out of a time out.

Later, it was Dakota again pushing the ball the length of the floor, drawing the defense, and then finding Paris Strawther in the lane for a tough "and one." The basket and made free throw pushed the Rebels' lead back to 18.

Yet another Wheatley steal and foray to the hoop would result in a foul and two made free throws as the speedy sophomore guard gave UNLV a 61-43 lead heading into the final quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Rebels continued to dominate, as Dakota Gonzalez sank a nice runner for her eleventh and twelfth points of the night.  Later, when Dylan Gonzalez made a spot-up three and then a driving layup in transition off a Wheatley feed, the Rebels' lead would balloon to an insurmountable 23 points.

Rohde would finish the night with a game-high 19 points to go along with her 9 rebounds. Wheatley had another strong game with 15 points and 6 rebounds.

Overall, the Rebels balanced scoring attack featured no less than five players in double figures.  UNLV shot 42.4 percent from the field and hit six threes in the game.

For Pepperdine, Keitra Wallace (Brea, Calif./Brea Olinda HS) finished with a team-high 14 points, and Kayla Blair (Fairfield, Calif./Vanden HS) also scored in double figures with 11.

With the win, coach Olivier notched her 100th victory as the bench boss for the Rebels, and was rewarded for her feat with a bouquet of flowers by Head Athletic Director Tina Kunzer Murphy.

“It’s a nice accomplishment, but it was really made very special by the fact that our Athletic Director, who was also my coach on the tennis team here at UNLV, was here to share it with me,” said Olivier.

The loss dropped the Waves to 0-3 on the year.  The Waves will be back in action on Friday when they play their home opener against Cal State Fullerton.

UNLV will face UC Irvine on Saturday at home.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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